TWEET CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT: Ending FGM through a gender equal world: Role of men – 12.03.2020

Anchor: @_chzy (Lauryn Dunkwu)

WHO estimates that more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone #FGM and continue to live with the negative consequences of this violating procedure. Further estimates by UNICEF (2016) show that 3 million girls around the world are at the risk of undergoing female genital mutilation every year.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve the partial or total removal of external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. 

FGM is a form of violence against women and children is frequently practiced as traditional rites across many different cultures. Often as a part of traditional beliefs, FGM is wrongly practiced as a means to beautify women sexually and equally wrongly assumed to preserve virtue.

Many different forms of Female Genital Mutilation are practiced across cultures. FGM typically includes all procedures that involve the partial or total removal of external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified FGM into four types, all of which are practiced in Nigeria. They include:

FGM Type 1 is defined as the partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce (Clitoridectomy). The subgroups of Type 1 FGM are: type 1a, removal of the clitoral hood or prepuce only; type 1b, removal of the clitoris with the prepuce.

FGM Type 2 entails the partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora (excision). Subgroups of Type II FGM are: type 2a, removal of the labia minora only; type 2b, partial or total removal of the clitoris and labia minora; type 2c, partial or total removal of the clitoris, labia minora and labia majora.

FGM Type 3 involves the narrowing of the vaginal orifice with creation of a covering seal by cutting and appositioning the labia minora and/or the labia majora, with or without excision of the clitoris (infibulation). Subgroups of Type III FGM are: type IIIa, removal and apposition of the labia minora; type IIIb, removal and apposition of the labia majora.

FGM Type 4 is also known as unclassified and involves all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for nonmedical purposes, for example, pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterization. The FGM Type 4 also includes the practice of “massaging” or applying petroleum jelly, herbal concoctions or hot water to the clitoris to desensitize it or pushing it back into the body, which is common in many parts of Africa including Nigeria.

FGM is mostly carried out by traditional circumcisers, who may have other roles in the community, such as Traditional Birth Attendants. In other instances, willing medical professionals are be sought out by parents to have the procedure carried out on their daughters.

FGM has no known health benefit, and is harmful to girls and women. It involves altering, removing and/or damaging otherwise healthy female genital tissue. The practice of FGM continue to prevail for reasons including; Respect for Tradition, Rite of Passage, Social Convention, Marriageability, Virginity, Fertility, Chastity and Faithfulness, Cleanliness, Femininity, and Religion.  

For more information about FGM you can visit http://new.endcuttinggirls.org/ or https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/female-genital-mutilation.  

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a growing concern in the world, and is classified as a violent act against the girl child, violating the human rights of individuals. 

As a component of SDGs 3 (Good health and well-being), FGM can best be attained alongside Gender Equality (SDG 5) given the social-cultural factors that determine outcomes in these areas.

The UNFPA/UNICEF Joint Programme on Elimination of FGM in Nigeria promotes transformation of gender and social norms, as a means to achieve social and behavioural change with regard to female reproductive health and child protection.  

Harmful traditional practices always have a negative health impact on a given population, and is often addressed with provision of improved medical services. However, prevention must a key area of implementation and can often be achieved by promoting positive social and behavioural changes in a population.

Gender Equality refers to a state in which gender has no bearing on one’s rights or access to opportunities.

The United Nations describes Gender Equality as “a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world” and addresses FGM in Goal 5 Target 3, “Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation”.

In the context of eliminating FGM, we know the important roles of community gatekeepers; key influencers, religious leaders, traditional rulers, local chieftains, as well as roles of community members; parents, children, youths, in ending FGM. We must acknowledge that men often are the ones placed in these roles as designated by the community holding significant power and influence in the policies governing that community. It is therefore important to consider the roles and responsibilities of men in ending FGM as the “other half” of Gender Equality.

There is a constant need for relevant services and resources to ensure young girls and women are protected from the practice of FGM. Resources such as health services, counselling, reporting mechanisms, information, and security.

 In positions of power, we observe that the male majority often control the tools required to implement justice or protection policies that may or may not be in place; cultural and political authority, law enforcement, finances, etc. With such tools at their disposal, having more men buying into the need for Gender Equality offers a more sustainable approach in the campaign to end FGM.

Connell (2003) addressed the effects of gender inequalities across relationships of mixed genders, which exist in every aspect of our daily lives; in emotions, communication and understanding, and economic arrangements. These all contribute to how a person interacts in their daily life. The way a person feels, understands and communicates will have an effect on their interactions with others irrespective of gender. Gender Equality is everyone’s business.

In the campaign to #endcuttinggirls, it is important to recognize the emotions of those involved in this violent practice. Survivors, guardians, spouses, and even the cutters themselves all have different emotions and motivations where this practice is concerned.

It is therefore important to maintain open communication lines across these groups of people. While FGM may be carried out with a good intention from family/kin, it is without doubt that the consequences bring only pain and hurt with no benefits.

Research continues to show that gender inequalities are often as a result of social constructs of manhood/masculinity, which may vary across cultures and are usually revered by both men and women. Traditional depictions of masculinity must be reshaped to achieve gender equality, and it is an ethical responsibility of men to participate in these reformation efforts.

Chowdhury and Patnaik (2010) stated the impossibility of promoting gender equality in a patriarchal society without the involvement of men, highlighting the need for participation by “partners” of women to improve the lives of women.

Power dynamics that exist in most Nigerian cultures often have men as the breadwinners and final decision makers in family settings, which puts them in a position for direct protection of the girl child.

A father must protect his daughters to ensure they are not mutilated

It is therefore pertinent to , that men and boys are empowered with information regarding equal rights for women, especially as regards their health and well-being.The  YouTube page https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyB8f8IM3k2xTsKNfUZf9wg/videos shares a collection of clips from intervention efforts at community levels, many showing men in their various roles in the communities joining the campaign to End FGM in Nigeria.

Here, the Ooni of Ife denounces FGM in a public declaration

‘’As major perpetrators, the target audience for primary prevention, holders of the social norms and influencers on other men, men need to be engaged to reduce and prevent gender-based violence in their communities’’-Mr. Koshuma Mtengeti, Children’s Dignity Forum (CDF) Executive Director.

Therefore, there is need to train men and boys on positive and caring fatherhood which aims at building capacity in terms of skills, knowledge and attitude on the role of men as caring partners in promoting gender equality and positive behaviour.

In other to achieve this, men and boys are mobilized to form fathers’ groups and are trained on positive parenting models, protection of women and girls from violence, child marriage, teen pregnancy and Female Genital Mutilation (Sonke Gender Justice).

This is on the premise that when Men and boys are educated, become partners in the campaign against gender violence they tend to know their roles in protecting the girl child.

Thanks to @UnicefNigeria who have started engaging men and boys in the campaign to #EndFGM in Nigeria as one of the strategies under the UNFPA/UNICEF Joint Programme on the elimination of FGM: Accelerating Change.

The Men engage to End FGM Alliance are being mobilized and formed across the five UNJP focus states (Ebonyi, Ekiti, Imo, Osun and Oyo) in Nigeria to advocate for the elimination of all forms of harmful traditional practices such as FGM.

UNICEF partners train members of Male Engage to End FGM Alliance on how to FGM affects women’s health and rights. They also learn about women’s sexual and reproductive rights and how understanding these rights will enable women to make informed decisions about their well-being.

The main objective of the Male Engage to End FGM Alliance is to promote the well-being of girls and women in their communities. Besides their advocacy to community gatekeepers, the Alliance members also discuss FGM and other issues affecting their Girls and Women’s lives during their regular meetings in their community.

As we celebrate the 2020 International Women’s Day (IWD), held on 8th March, with the campaign theme #EachforEqual”, let us remember that “Men have a role to play in Ending FGM through a gender equal world”. Let’s be #EachforEqual.  

At this point, I will stop the conversation so we can reflect on the key points discussed as I entertain any questions.

Thanks for being part of the conversations today. Join us every other Thursday 5-7pm. Visit our  www.endcuttinggirls.org for more info and updates on FGM, and kindly follow the handle “Endcuttinggirls Nigeria’’ on all social media platforms.  @Endcuttinggirls

Together, we will end FGM in this generation. Once again, I am @_chzy (Lauryn Dunkwu), your Anchor for Todays Tweet Conference.

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